They ARE Volunteering

You know who volunteers in your church. But do you really know the volunteering behavior of all your people?

“A new federal study shows that 1 in 4 Americans volunteered through an organization and two-thirds helped their neighbors last year.”

This report is talking about your people, if your church is in the United States. This blog summarizes it and provides a link to the full report.

Some facts from the report, with my thoughts on their connection church volunteerism: (or just skip ahead to suggested responses)

  •  “1 in 4 Americans volunteer through an organization.” How many of our people volunteer for other organizations but not their church? Why? Could other organizations be better places to volunteer? Could it be a good thing that they volunteers elsewhere? What if they saw serving in community organizations as a great way to do God’s work of caring for people in need, and an opportunity to build relationships with people who don’t know Jesus as Lord?
  • “Two-thirds of Americans helped their neighbor last year.” Church members are helping their neighbors, too. Do they see that helping as part of their faith? Is part of their intention to be ready to share Jesus when the opportunity arises?
  • “Americans age 35-44 had the highest volunteer rate (31%)” and “the volunteer rate of parents with children under 18 (32%) remained higher than the population as a whole (25%).” These people, busy with families and work, still make time to volunteer, probably in areas related to the children. How can the church tap into this reality, with an age group that is usually under-represented among church volunteers?
  • “Volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to charity as non-volunteers.” Improving volunteerism grows the budget!
  • “Unemployed individuals who volunteer over the next year have 27 percent higher odds of being employed at the end of the year than non-volunteers.” Do you intentionally reach out to the unemployed in your congregation with these two questions, in this order: “What can we do to help?” and “Would finding a place to serve help you in this time?”

 How to respond? Some suggestions:

  •  Get to know our own church family. Are they volunteering at church? In the community? Why did they choose these places? Since it might be hard for them to be honest with church leaders and staff, ask some members to talk to a representative sample. People who work in marketing will know how to find out this information for you. Make changes in the way you deploy, recruit, and support volunteers based on the results.
  •  In worship, do a ‘commissioning’ of all who volunteer in community organizations.
  • When your people help their neighbors, do they see it coming from their faith? Do they see their neighborhood as their mission field? Read “Joining Jesus in his Mission” by Greg Finke for a simple and practical model for neighborhood evangelism.
  • Get to know the organizations your people are already volunteering for. They know your community and its needs. Consider partnering with them on serving projects.
  • Compare the amount of time your main governing body spends talking about budget issues to the time spent discussing volunteerism issues. Discuss how growing volunteers leads to growing contributions.
  • People prefer to volunteer where their time is not wasted, where there is a compelling purpose, where the task fits their abilities and schedule, where they enjoy the people. Could it be they find it in community organizations rather than the church? Use this survey to ask yourself, “How’s Your Stewardship of Your People’s Time and Talents?”
  • Commission a small group of volunteers to study volunteerism health in your church, to gather resources on improving it, and to report back with suggestions.

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